Opinion

Public cancer services needed to match private

By Shepparton News

The announcement that Shepparton will boast a private radiation oncology provider by the end of the year is good news for the region.

As with today’s story of John ‘‘Clive’’ Nightingale, battling cancer often also means battling a long, exhausting commute.

Travelling to Bendigo, Albury or Melbourne for cancer treatment impacts patients and their carers, friends and family.

At a time when patients need to rally their strength and their support, they are forced into hours of travel, overnight or weekly accommodation and separation from loved ones and pets.

Shepparton accessibility to radiation treatments was a key issue at last November’s state election.

Successful independent Suzanna Sheed campaigned vigorously on establishing an integrated cancer centre as part of phase two of the Goulburn Valley Health redevelopment.

The Liberals’ Cheryl Hammer also placed the issue high on her policy agenda, promising millions to complete the GV Health master plan with a focus on an integrated cancer centre.

We note these two were the best performing candidates of the election, receiving nearly two-thirds of the first preference vote between them and we believe this is a reflection of the community’s desire to see holistic cancer treatment services available in the region.

The establishment of a private radiation oncology provider is therefore a welcomed development.

But we fear this may create a two-tiered treatment regime based on socio-economic advantage and disadvantage.

The provider, GenesisCare, told The News discussions with the government about catering to public patients are ongoing.

‘‘We’re in active discussions with the government about how we can make it easier for local cancer patients in the public health to access these services once the centre is up and running,’’ state general manager Shane Ryan said.

While the arrival in Shepparton of a private provider is to be applauded, we still await a public health solution.

Some will fear the entry of a private provider may stall the move towards public sector patients gaining access to radiation oncology services through GV Health.

We renew our calls to the Andrews Government to listen to the will of the people of the region, as evidenced at the ballot box last November, and move to put in place an integrated cancer centre available to all public health patients.